More School News: Cartoon Mascot Being Dumped?

In Huntington Beach, California students at Golden West College have begun discussing
whether to replace their mascot with a more acceptable alternative.

Once they come up with a consensus, they could make a recommendation to the administration, but that hasn’t happened yet. No decisions have been made about anything, but it’s become a hot topic on our campus.”

A group of Golden West College students may soon seek to send the school’s mascot, Rustler Sam, riding off into the sunset once and for all.

In September, the Associated Students of Golden West College (ASGWC) student council created a Mascot Change Task Force to begin finding replacements for the current school mascot.

“Our student government has decided that they want to evaluate the mascot,” Golden West director of marketing and public relations Pam Brashear said.

The L. A. Times carries the story.

What bring this story to these parts is the origins of Rustler Sam.

A “rustler” is a person who rounds up and steals cattle, horses or sheep. Tom Ryan, creator of the cartoon strip “Tumbleweeds,” created a cartoonish figure called Rustler Sam for the college in 1968, three years after it was established.

According to a 2009 article celebrating the 40th anniversary of Rustler Sam:

Students who admired the nationally syndicated Tumbleweeds comic strip character Tumbleweed wrote to its creator, Tom K. Ryan, in Muncie, Ind., in 1968 to ask if they could use it as their mascot.
Ryan wrote back to say that he didn’t think Sagebrush Sam would work, but he drew them their very own cowpoke instead.

There was also the matter of Sagebrush Sam (and all of the Tumbleweeds cast of characters) being owned, at the time, by The Register and Tribune Syndicate and not Tom K. Ryan.

So Tom drew them a new character with a distinct Tumbleweeds look.

As payment, Ryan asked for an “extra large sweatshirt with emblem imprint when available,” a school pennant and pictures of the college.

Rustler Sam was adopted by the campus as the official mascot in 1969.

In the 1990s Sam lost the beard and the cigarette.

The school stopped using the cartoonish figure altogether in 2005. But Golden West’s athletic teams are still called the Rustlers, and Rustler Sam is still listed as the official mascot.

Golden West’s athletic programs now feature a more menacing silhouette-styled logo of a cowboy with a bandana covering his mouth.

Rustler Sam © Golden West College

The total makeover does have the impression of a cowboy, but my first thought was The Shadow.

The Shadow © Condé Nast


Tumbleweeds © Tom K. Ryan